Managing Expectations during PCS Season

PCS season often comes with a pile of nerves and paperwork. Is this your first PCS? Your sixth? It can be tempting to imagine you can do everything as usual during PCS season. Sadly, you often can’t, and managing expectations and knowing what to expect when you’re PSCing can help you keep your sanity, paperwork, and family together during the move. Here are five tips to help you manage your PCS expectations.


Prioritize the To-Do’s

That extra task you think you can do? Probably not. On a typical day, you can get ten things done and feel like a superhero, but if it is one month before your flight, cross off the bottom half of your list and delegate it throughout the week. Is it possible to ask for help or end some commitments so you can focus on what you need to do to have a smooth move? It can be hard to say no during this season, but you need to know what must happen now and what can wait.


Even if it doesn’t feel vital, prioritize some self-care and brain space. Even though you need to make sure appointments happen, schedule in time to breathe with friends or do something fun; that way, you have the mental capacity to get through your PCS season in one piece, and you have breaks from the stress.


Do what you can when you get PCS information.

You may get hard copy orders five months ahead of time, and you may get them two months ahead of time. When you have your soft copy orders, start doing as much as possible, like putting in your request for the local Facebook groups for the base to gather information and schedule appointments. You can even start purging your home to prepare for movers, so you aren’t doing it the week before.

Once you have your hard copy orders, make the mover calls, get yourself on housing lists, and follow up if you can’t reach somebody the first time. Things get rescheduled, and people go on vacation, so starting early and spreading out the tasks can cause less panic in the long run.


Have two copies of everything

Although you got the documents you needed printed, the odds are one of them will disappear into the ether, so it is wise to have two copies stored in two different places so you can always at least find one copy of the paperwork you need.


Start early…no, even earlier to prepare.

If you live overseas and are about to return to the States, starting prep on pet travel, vaccinations, or passport renewals two months before your move may be too late. Even if you don’t know where you are going yet, six months out of your projected report no later than the date, check all of the paperwork that you currently have. Look over your animal’s vaccinations and see if they need anything special for travel. Reviewing your passports, driver’s licenses, and credit card expiration dates can prevent a lousy surprise during your PCS. If they are about to expire, get them renewed as soon as possible.


Movers are the luck of the draw; know your rights and seal your items.

The movers that come to your house to pack you up may be efficient, and you wish you could have them in every move, or perhaps it is a day of chaos, and you hear things crashing at 9:00 a.m. Know what you want to write on your high-value sheet, double check to ensure they aren’t writing down certain items are scratched or dented when they aren’t, take pictures of everything expensive, know where all your jewelry is, and watch them pack it.


If possible, put your luggage with your passports and everything you need for your flight outside to a friend’s home or in your car, or clearly labeled so they do not get packed. Take out all your trash so nothing that should not get packed gets packed. It’s okay to call the moving company or take pictures if something feels off because these are your items, and this is your move. You aren’t being unreasonable; you are having your own back.


Although this may feel like a lot, when you can look at a PCS season and know that it is going to be a whole adventure, with ups and downs, and things going sideways and also surprisingly right, you can have a little bit more patience for yourself and the people involved as you navigate it. Remember to do your best, keep breathing, and do the next right thing.


About the Author

Aj Smit is the author of the book Red Thread: Weaving an Embodied Life of Joy, speaker, glitter enthusiast, and professional weaver of Joy. She is a military spouse in S. Korea with a pup and houseplants galore. Aj has led various Red Tents, retreats, and workshops internationally over the last ten years to help others discover how to weave creativity and curiosity into their lives. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram at @TheJoyWeaver and